A fresh start for the Mimosa Inn

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 13, 2018

Owners of historic Tryon building looking to expand inn’s presence

TRYON — From the luscious green foliage that surrounds the building to the giant white pillars that continue to stand stalwart on its front porch, Tryon’s century-old Mimosa Inn still turns heads today, serving as a timeless example of Southern architecture from a bygone era.

By offering modern amenities for guests — with a particular focus on green, sustainable business practices — the current stewards of the beloved community fixture want to show, however, that people can enjoy the rustic nature of an old bed-and-breakfast without sacrificing the services today’s highly-connected visitors expect.

The inn’s lobby features décor intended to evoke a 1940s-style atmosphere, based off the era when the Mimosa was at the height of its popularity. (Photo by Ted Yoakum/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

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Since reopening the business under the name “GreenLife Inn at Mimosa” last year, Mary and Kevin Parker have worked to transform the historic Mimosa Inn into a location that offers “yesterday’s traditions with today’s comforts.” With the recent addition of two new business partners, and with the renovation of the structure’s last set of guest rooms expected to finish by summer’s end, the Ohio-transplants will soon look to expand GreenLife Inn’s presence in the Foothills.

The condition of the building has improved by leaps and bounds since the Parkers took over the property — which had been closed for several years at the time — three years ago, they said.

Guests can choose from a variety of bed sizes when booking rooms, and can enjoy a number of modern amenities during their stay, including high-speed Wi-Fi internet. (Photo by Ted Yoakum/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

“You couldn’t even see the building from [Highway] 108 because of the overgrowth of trees,” Kevin said.

The sight was a far cry from the reputation the Mimosa Inn had established as one of Tryon’s most popular social destinations, especially during its heyday in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

The inn has seven rooms available to guests, with another six expected to be ready by the end of August. (Photo by Ted Yoakum/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

The former estate of Columbus Mills — an influential figure in Polk County’s formative years — the Mimosa Inn was first opened in 1903, named after the species of trees that grew around the property. Growing into a three-story establishment with 50 rooms and a casino and entertainment area, the inn burned to the ground in 1916, with owner William Stearn rebuilding the former casino area into a 12-bedroom inn with two lobbies and a dining room, which served as a popular gathering place in Tryon for years before the Mimosa went out of business.

The Parkers, who moved to the South after their daughter landed a teaching job in the area, were not even in the market for a B&B when they purchased the Mimosa, but were instead looking for a simple two-bedroom, two-bathroom home, they said. When their realtor suggested they look at the property anyway, Mary said she went mainly to humor the request — looking at the condition of the building at the time, with next to no furnishings left and with a ceiling that was poor shape, there was not much to initially convince her to make an offer on the place.

The owners would like to open the inn for regular public events, such as afternoon happy hours. (Photo by Ted Yoakum/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

As she continued to tour the structure, though, she began to see its potential — as well as the consequences of what would happen if the historic building remained vacant.

“If someone didn’t do anything soon, there wouldn’t be anything to save,” Mary said.

The Parkers, who have experience in restoring old buildings, began renovating the structure in earnest about a year and a half ago, they said.

They decided to rename the business to GreenLife Inn to reflect not only the new beginning for the Mimosa, but also for their emphasis on environmentally-conscious business practices — as Kevin puts it, the couple “was green before it was cool.”

These practices include using a rain water collection tank, which can store up to 12,000 gallons of water, and washing sheets with a laundry detergent that only uses a handful of components, Mary said. In addition, the couple sources all-natural ingredients for the continental breakfast service it serves guests every morning.

While the décor in the dining room and lobby area is intended to give off a 1940s vibe in order to harken back to when the Mimosa was at the height of its popularity, the level of service at the inn is anything but dated, the couple said. The inn offers high-speed wireless internet to guests throughout the property, and features modern electrical and plumbing systems.

“We pay homage to the tradition, culture and history of the location,” Kevin said. “At the same time, you can take an hour-long shower without worrying about running out of hot water, or you can sit out on the front porch with your tablet and have access to wireless internet.”

Since welcoming their first guests to GreenLife in July 2017, the owners have renovated seven rooms for guests to stay in, including its extended stay suite, which features a kitchen and living room area. The couple is looking to finish renovations on an additional six rooms by the end of August, before they begin work on the inn’s pool house, which they want to turn into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom guest house.

In addition to its functions as a B&B, the Parkers would like to open GreenLife Inn more for public functions, including daily happy afternoon happy hours and teas, where people can come and enjoy some drinks and fellowship on the inn’s front patio, Kevin said. With the help of their new business partners, Robert and Paula Metcalfe — the first guests to stay at GreenLife — the owners are also looking to organize different events at the inn, such as concerts or wine tastings, as well as offer up the venue for weddings and parties.

GreenLife Inn at Mimosa is located at 65 Mimosa Inn Drive, Tryon. For more information, people may visit greenlifeinn.com or may call 828-436-0097.